Trojan horse

Dallas PTA leaders fear a Perot-funded district survey will be used to destroy public schools

In addition to concerns over a lack of cultural sensitivity, others perceived a hidden agenda to the survey. Specifically, they believed that Perot's connection signaled that the business community would use the survey results as a mandate to exercise more control over the district.

Last spring the board of managers of the citywide PTA council, which saw a bootlegged copy of the survey questions, thought the survey was too generic to be useful.

Now it objects to the survey completely. Staff just doesn't get it. "This is designed to solve problems," she says. "This is a way to get a bottom-up snapshot of every school in the district. This is not nefarious."

Unlike Staff, board trustee John Dodd thinks the PTA board's questions about the survey have been valid and helped make the questionnaires better. Earlier this week, Dodd, who shared their concerns over who controlled the survey data, put the issue to rest after he convinced the head of Sirota to put in writing that the DISD board had final say-so over how the information would be used.

The PTA council feels better about the survey, but is still fearful about the threat of vouchers that looms on the political horizon.

"If we went to a voucher system, there are not enough private schools for all the kids," says Lois Walters, recording secretary for the PTA council board of managers.

Walters also objects to the survey for other reasons. She says the district already knows what's wrong and how to fix it, and she thinks it's ridiculous that two hours of class time will be used for students to fill out the surveys.

"Like we have time for that," says Walters. "Teachers, too, are resentful. It's time the school district paid attention to the parents. They've awakened a sleeping giant. We own the district. We are the public in public education.

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